Post Tea Season Reflections: Challenges


For a tea seller, Chinese or foreign, tea season is a whirlwind. Each year there are challenges, uncertainties, and mistakes. This tea season had challenges that were unlike years before and made me rethink the way I do tea.

This year I offered presales. The point of presales is to gauge the interest in a tea and therefore buy accordingly. It also helps tea drinkers get the freshest tea. The idea is that tea can be received by me and then immediately go out. This though gives a lot of trust to makers, the weather, and other changing factors.

Consistent Quality:
I’m going, to be honest, Cha Shan One and Cha Shan Two were not as good this year. The weather was wetter and colder which caused the maker to extend the sha qing time to properly dry it. The result, as confirmed by the maker, was a flatter tea. Cha Shan One and Two don't have the same juiciness that they did last year. The weather came out nicely for the following picks which resulted in a better Cha Shan Three and Four than last year but at the price of the early-picked tea. I had this problem last year with Monkey Valley when the tea was picked a little too early resulting in a muted flavor, but luckily this year produced just the flavor I wanted. Tea making is hard and teas such as green teas are susceptible to a strong influence by weather. A risk of presales is a drop in quality due to weather that year.

Presales come with a risk of getting a lower quality than you wanted. But they also come with the chance of getting precisely what you wanted or better. The Bi Luo Chun this year was an earlier pick than planned because there were two sunny days that I knew I had to get so tea drinkers got a higher quality than planned.

Interactions with makers and sellers:
I don’t grow tea and I defiantly don't work alone when searching for it. The wonderful woman behind the She Xian teas is also the woman who helps me get Hou Kui. The yellow tea is procured by the same guy I get the music in my mouth from.  When I was living in Huang Shan I was in constant contact with them, often in their shops. Once I moved through sourcing teas became riskier. No longer could I taste the teas as soon as they were out. I had to talk with the makers to explain what I wanted. You can imagine how stressful this can be in a second language. It turned out that this year the She Xian lady even branched out on her own and started her shop. While I was very happy for her, I was worried that the amazing teas from years before were not hers but her boss’s. There was a stressful few days of waiting for the teas and hoping they would be good. Luckily they were.

A big miscommunication this year was the yellow tea availability dates. I presold the yellow tea thinking it would be available around the same time as the others. As I write this, a full month after the season, I have only just been informed it is available.

Communication is vital in tea seasons. You can't be everywhere at once. Changes in tea seasons though are harder to deal with over WeChat. Patients are needed as well as trust in your sources that they are going to get you what you want.